In new 'bonus' phase of career, Naomi Osaka says: 'I want to win more Grand Slams'

A revitalised Osaka spoke about mental health and seeing her career from a new perspective as she made a run to the Miami Open final, falling to new world No.1 Iga Swiatek.

By Nick McCarvel
Picture by 2022 Getty Images

Having been ranked No.1 in the world and with four major tennis titles to her name, Naomi Osaka's CV is already that of a Hall of Famer in the sport.

But the Japanese superstar appears ready to write her next chapter on court.

"I'm still a student," she said after finishing as runner-up at the Miami Open to new world No.1 Iga Swiatek. "And I have to keep learning."

The perspective marked a noticeable shift in Osaka, 24, after what has been a roller coaster 10 months, with the big-hitting baseline player offering over the Miami fortnight that she was ready for the next phase of her career.

She's calling it a "bonus" phase.

"I kind of realise, like, anything that I do from this point is like a bonus," she told reporters in Miami. "I want to win all the tournaments that I play. I want to win more Grand Slams. But at this point in my life, I just want to be grateful for being healthy.

She added: "[I] just think of everything that I do as a bonus now. I've been able to achieve a lot. Hopefully I achieve more. But I think I need to stay grounded."

Mental shift: Osaka working with therapist

Osaka sent shockwaves through tennis last year when she stepped away from the traditional post-match media conference routine at the French Open, eventually pulling out of the event and missing Wimbledon. While she competed at the Olympic Summer Games Tokyo 2020 in 2021, as well as the US Open, Osaka was open about her mental health struggles.

Her candidness sparked a global conversation about mental health in sports, coupled with Simone Biles' openness during Tokyo.

Last month, a fan heckling her at the WTA 1000 event in Indian Wells was a "triggering" episode, she said.

And one that finally led her to work with a therapist, at the behest of her sister, Mari.

"I finally started talking to a therapist after Indian Wells," she said. "It only took like a year after French Open."

"I'm glad that I have people around me that told me to go in that direction," Osaka continued, explaining that she was already using tactics discussed in therapy on court. "I feel like it helps me a lot. I'm just going to keep moving forward with that, knowing the feelings that I have towards, like, wanting to improve that part of my life or that part of my head space.

Osaka said that her coach Wim Fissette had explained to her all the work they put in on her tennis and off-court training, and that her mental health needed similar attention, too.

"He said, 'The mind is such a big thing. If you can get a professional to help you out .5 percent, that alone is worth it.'"

Next stop: Clay, grass challenges

All four of Osaka's Grand Slams have come on hard courts: The US Open in 2018 and 2020, as well as the Australian Open in 2019 and 2021. She has never been past the third round at either the French Open (clay) or Wimbledon (grass) and has a combined 11-7 record at the events.

But the lesson Osaka said that she's taking from Miami could be the most dangerous lesson of all: She only wants to continue to learn.

"I'm gonna try to take this clay court season really seriously, so I'm actually going to go to Europe a week before to train on the red clay," said Osaka, who is normally based in Los Angeles. "I'm clearly not a clay expert, but, you know, I feel like if I get my movement together, I should be pretty good."

She said her next anticipated tournament is the Madrid Open, on red clay, which begins 28 April.

"I just think that knowing I'm still a student and I have to keep learning," she said of lessons learned over the last few weeks. "Clay and grass is something I really want to tackle this year."

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